The Antiguan and Barbudan government is shedding a bit more light on how it intends to integrate over 6oo West Africans, who have fled turmoil in their homeland, into the local society.
Weeks ago, government officials announced that steps would be taken to ensure that the visitors who expressed a desire to stay will be given the legal rights to do so, while others could be repatriated via a charter flight.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told the media during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing Labour Minister Steadroy Benjamin is awaiting a report which will clearly outline how the cabinet can legally absorb the African visitors given the established criteria regarding those who chose to remain here or who opt to leave the twin island.
“We are awaiting the report from the Ministry of Labour and Immigration,” Nicholas said.
He also added that Antigua Airways is prepared to fund the travel for those who will be desirous.
The minister was also asked about the perceived notion of favoritism in its handling of the matter with the Africans.
There have been concerns in some quarters of the public that Caricom nationals who are residing in the country and are contributing to the economy are required to wait the prescribed seven years to benefit from citizenship and other perks.
However, the West Africans, who some complain arrived in the country under mysterious circumstances are being given a direct line to legal status.
Nicholas pointed out that Caribbean nationals have benefited from amnesty during different perhaps, which allows them to regularize their status, while the situation with the Africans is based on different circumstances.
“I would encourage those who are living here not to become envious of any conditions that we would make available to any person from another jurisdiction based on their circumstances”
“Look at the situation in Haiti which is a troubled area. Should the possibility present itself that we would have to assist, we would have to treat it at its merit,” Nicholas added.
The African nationals have indicated in the part that Antigua and Barbuda was meant to be a transit stop and not their final destination. They have since expressed a willingness to remain here and not return to their homeland pointing out that the latter could be fatal.